Artists and artistry are often found in unlikely subjects. Consider the contributions of two Northern Virginia artists.

If you were to ask John Hearn, a 30-year-old sergeant in the Air Force, how he spends his free time, his answer might surprise you:

He dances ballet.

Just as surprising is how he says he became a dancer: he happened to sit in on an Arlington Ballet rehearsal one afternoon when the ballet's director, Elan Cooper, noticed him in the audience, began talking with him, and ended up encouraging him to start classes.

That was 12 years ago. But the impact of that encounter has changed his life, says Hearn, who at the time was an industrial painter.

"Dance gave me a new outlook on life," he said. "I used to be bored and believed that all there was to life was working all day, coming home and watching TV.

"Dance keeps me busy as well as in shape. I enjoy music now that I never knew existed."

Hearn, who has been involved with the Arlington ballet for eight years, recently starred in a presentation of the troupe's Christmas ballet at Andrew's Air Force Base, where he is stationed. The response, said Hearn, was "teriffic."

Dance, he said, "is 90 percent ambition and 10 percent ability."

Just when you thought you were familiar with every Christmas musical score, a local composer has come up with a new one. Arlington resident Kristen Trophagen has set the poem, "Little Tree, Little Silent Christmas Tree," by e.e. cummings, to her own original score.

Last month, both the Arlington Metropolitan Chorus and students at Barcroft Elementary School included Trophagen's piece in Christmas concerts. Trophagen, whose style is rooted in classical composition, said she was especially pleased with the children's response to her work.

"The students walked around humming my carol rather than the more familiar Christmas melodies," she said.

Trophagen, 42, studied both literature and music at Oberlin College. She says that, as a result, her natural inclination is to do just what she did: set words to music.

The two performances marked the first time that Trophagen's work had ever been performed.